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Counties discuss how to spend COVID relief funds

Millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan are sitting in counties in cities bank account while they decide the best way to spend the funds.

The American Rescue Plan has sent millions of dollars to counties and cities across our state, but this money can’t be spent on just anything, so that’s why cities and counties are taking their time to decide how best to spend it.  

The $54 million went to Benton County and so far, they have received $27 million. 

Judge Barry Moehring says the American Rescue Plan committee of the quorum court is carefully deciding how to spend the funds. He says Tuesday (Sept. 21) night they approved giving county employees who worked on the frontlines during the pandemic premium pay. 

“We did provide some additional funding for our pure volunteer fire department who actually serve to a great degree as the county’s fire department," said Moehring. "So that’s how we kind of kick this off but over the next couple of months, the ARP committee which is the quorum court will start to make more in-depth decisions on some larger projects as well."

Judge Moehring says they want to spend the funds on ways to mitigate COVID issues and issues that came about during the pandemic. He says they are reaching out to the community to help decide where these funds should be spent. 

“If you’ve either been affected by COVID or if you think you can do something to mitigate COVID going forward, submit a proposal. We’ve received about a dozen submissions so far, we are taking those proposals through the end of October for this round and then the ARP committee will consider those proposals before the end of the year,” said Moehring. 

The Benton County ARP committee voted last night to give the NWA Council $113,000 for an ad campaign focused on getting more people to get the vaccine. The full quorum court still has to approve the funds next week, but the NWA Council is asking for funds from both counties and the four major cities in Benton and Washington Counties to contribute to the $1.2 million-dollar campaign. 

NWA Council Executive Director of the healthcare transformation division, Ryan Cork says this campaign will target unvaccinated people who said their reason for not getting the vaccine was they needed more time to understand the vaccine and see the side effects. 

“We will partner with the local hospitals in the region to share on a regional story the effects that it’s had on patients who have come to the hospital both covid positive that had a full recovery and unfortunately those who didn’t as well,” said Cork.

In Sebastian County, Judge David Hudson says they will receive a total of $24 million from the ARP and they haven’t spent any of the $12 million they’ve received yet because they are waiting on more guidance from the federal government to make sure they are spending it properly. 

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